Blogs

NASA Considers Development of Student-Led Satellite Initiative

ASMO logo. Credits: NASA/ASMO

[NASA Press Release - 02.07.2008]
NASA is considering the development of a university-based, student-led satellite development initiative to begin passing the space exploration torch to a new generation.

The American Student Moon Orbiter, or ASMO, concept invites students, faculty and industry leaders in the U.S. with experience in university-based, student-led spaceflight projects to respond to a Request for Information which is planned for release this month and will remain open for at least 90 days. The orbiter will be a small satellite that could orbit the moon and carry scientific instruments designed and developed by students. It is aligned with NASA's lunar exploration agenda.

Eight teams taking up ESA’s Lunar Robotics Challenge

Artist impression of Moonbase. Credits: ESA

[ESA Press Release - 02.07.2008]
As interest in exploration of the Moon soars among the world’s space agencies, ESA, through it's General Studies Programme, has challenged university students to develop a robotic vehicle that is capable of working in difficult terrain, comparable to that found at the lunar poles. Eight university teams have been selected to proceed to the design stage of ESA’s Lunar Robotics Challenge.

NASA Study Provides Next Step to Establishing Lunar Outpost

Astronauts and Lander on the surface of the Moon. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 23.06.2008]
NASA engineers and scientists completed a milestone review June 20 that will help determine the systems needed to return humans to the moon and establish a lunar outpost.

The three-day Lunar Capability Concept Review capped a nine-month study led by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington that incorporated science and exploration objectives earlier developed by representatives of 14 countries as part of the Global Exploration Strategy.

NASA Awards Contract for Constellation Spacesuit for the Moon

NASA moon spacesuit concept. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 13.06.2008]
NASA has awarded a contract to Oceaneering International Inc. of Houston, for the design, development and production of a new spacesuit system. The spacesuit will protect astronauts during Constellation Program voyages to the International Space Station and, by 2020, the surface of the moon.

The subcontractors to Oceaneering are Air-Lock Inc. of Milford, Conn., David Clark Co. of Worcester, Mass., Cimarron Software Services Inc.

NASA Tests Lunar Robots and Spacesuits on Earthly Moonscape

The ATHLETE rover climbing a hill. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 13.06.2008]
Conditions on the moon will be harsher, but prototype NASA robotic vehicles braved sand storms and unprecedented temperature swings this month on sand dunes near Moses Lake, Wash., to prepare for future lunar expeditions. Teams from seven NASA centers and several universities conducted the tests from June 2-13.

"The goal was to gain hands-on experience with specific technical challenges anticipated when humans return to the moon by 2020, begin to explore the lunar surface, and set up outposts," said Test Director Bill Bluethmann of NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

X PRIZE Foundation Announces 2008 Lunar Lander Challenge

Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Logo. Credits: X Prize

[X Prize Press Release - 06.06.2008]
The X PRIZE Foundation today announced that the 2008 Lunar Lander Challenge will take place at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, October 24-25, 2008. This year’s competition will be webcast online; the public can follow the action at the X PRIZE Foundation website www.xprize.org.

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, said, “We are excited about going back to Holloman Air Force Base to conduct the Lunar Lander Challenge this year. We are thankful for the continued support from the state of New Mexico for private spaceflight. The Lunar Lander Challenge is a perfect showcase for the talent and innovation coming from the entrepreneurs who will eventually fly from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. Lunar Lander Challenge teams are ready to fly and we are confident that this is the year someone will win the competition.”

NASA Scientists Pioneer Method for Making Giant Lunar Telescopes

[NASA Press Release - 04.06.2008]
Scientists working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have concocted an innovative recipe for giant telescope mirrors on the Moon. To make a mirror that dwarfs anything on Earth, just take a little bit of carbon, throw in some epoxy, and add lots of lunar dust.

"We could make huge telescopes on the moon relatively easily, and avoid the large expense of transporting a large mirror from Earth," says Peter Chen of NASA Goddard and the Catholic University of America, which is located in Washington, D.C. "Since most of the materials are already there in the form of dust, you don’t have to bring very much stuff with you, and that saves a ton of money."

Human space exploration in the future

Artist impression of Moonbase. Credits: ESA

[ESA Vodcast - 30.05.2008]
To land on the Moon and on Mars, scientists need a mix of human and robotic missions to know in advance what challenges must be met. A video report from the Berlin International Airshow's Space Pavilion on the future of human exploration in space.

In February 2008, the Agency's long-awaited Columbus science lab was successfully delivered to the International Space Station, and on 3 April, the first Automated Transfer Vehicle - the Jules Verne - made a spectacular automated docking to the Russian ISS module, establishing ESA as a full partner in ISS operations.

Proposal opportunity: NASA Lunar Science Institute

NASA Lunar Science Institute. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 29.05.2008]
On June 2, 2008, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD), in cooperation with the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD), is releasing a Cooperative Agreement Notice (NNH08ZDA008C) soliciting proposals for the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). Proposers will be required to clearly articulate an innovative, interdisciplinary, lunar research program, together with plans to advance the full scope of NLSI objectives as defined in the Institute’s Mission Statement (see NLSI website at http://lunarscience.arc.nasa.gov/about#mission ). Proposals may address science of the Moon, on the Moon, and from the Moon, including objectives that meet NASA’s future lunar exploration needs. NASA anticipates making $8-10M per year available for this selection, leading to 5 to 7 awards at least one of which will be focused on exploration objectives. Awards will be for 4 years duration.

Common Spacecraft Bus for Lunar Explorer Missions

LADEE model. Credits: NASA

[NASA Press Release - 01.06.2008]
NASA will include the Modular Common Spacecraft Bus in the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission. Watch a video of researchers testing the prototype compressed air propulsion system in a hover flight demonstration.

Usually space missions require unique spacecraft that are custom built for hundreds of millions of dollars, but an innovative Modular Common Spacecraft Bus will allow NASA to launch more missions for less money. By using a modular platform NASA will no longer need to “reinvent the wheel” for each mission and leveraging previous R&D further reduces design cost. The spacecraft is roughly one tenth the price of a conventional unmanned mission and could be used to land on the moon, orbit Earth, or rendezvous with asteroids. It was not easy to get NASA headquarters to believe in the project, but when high-ranking NASA officials saw a flight test, they were impressed enough to include the team in an $80 million dollar mission to the moon, called the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE).

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